THE CHINESE CHARACTER 67
jobs, The Nanking ministers neither defied the Nanking order nor petitioned for its repeal on honest grounds of inconvenience and impracticability. No professional clerk could be clever enough to draft any such petition and make it accord with good form, since it meant the desire of Chinese officials to reside in foreign settlements, which would be unpatriotic. They did an infinitely cleverer thing by changing the door-plates of their Shanghai offices and calling them trade inspection bureaux* The door-plates probably cost twenty dollars apiece, no man was thrown out of a job, and no "face" was lost. The school trick pleased not only the Nanking ministers but also Nanking itself, where the original order was issued. Our Nanking ministers are great humorists. So are our bandits. So are our war-lords. The humour of Chinese civil wars has already been pointed out.
In contrast with this, we might take the case of mission schools as showing the Western lack of humour. The missions were put into a scare a few years ago when their registration was required, which involved the crossing out of religious instruction from the school curricula, the hanging of Sun Yatsen's picture in the assembly hall, and the holding of Monday memorial meetings. The Chinese authorities could not see why the mission schools could not comply with these simple regulations, while the missionaries could not see their way clear to accepting them, and there was a deadlock. Some missionaries actually had visions of closing up their schools, and in one instance, everything would have gone on smoothly except for the stupid honesty of the Western principal who refused to cancel one sentence from their school catalogue avowing religious instruction to be one of their aims. The principal wanted to be able to say honestly and openly that religious instruction was indeed the principal aim of their institution, and to this day that school is not registered. There was absolutely no lightness of touch. What this mission school should have done was to imitate the example of the Nanking ministers, comply with every official regulation, hang a picture of Sun Yatsen—and proceed d la chinoise as regards the rest. But I cannot help thinking that a school run with such stupid honesty must be an honest-to-goodness school.